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SANTA FE – Voting is set to begin Tuesday as New Mexico plunges into the final four-week stretch before Election Day with competitive races for governor and Congress at stake.
County clerks throughout the state will start mailing absentee ballots Tuesday and each county will open one in-person voting site – timed to coincide with the last 28 days before the Nov. 8 general election. Expanded early voting at more locations will begin Oct. 22.
The start of absentee and in-person voting comes as candidates intensify their attack ads and campaigns focus on getting their voters to the polls.
Brian Sanderoff, a political analyst and president of Research & Polling Inc. in Albuquerque, said he expects turnout to exceed the 40% reached in 2014 – the last election with an incumbent governor seeking reelection.
“There are groups of voters who are really just polarized right now on both sides of the political spectrum,” Sanderoff said in an interview. “They’re inspired and enthusiastic to vote for their respective candidates and parties.”
Turnout, he said, may exceed 50% this year and end up closer to the level seen in 2018, when an open governor’s race, a competitive campaign in the 2nd Congressional District and Democratic anger at then-President Donald Trump helped boost participation to 56%.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, and her Republican opponent, Mark Ronchetti, are both well funded this year, Sanderoff said, allowing them to get their campaign messages out to voters.
The congressional race in the newly redrawn 2nd District – stretching from southeastern New Mexico into parts of the West Side of Albuquerque – is also a national focus in the battle to control the U.S. House.
In New Mexico, the ballot also features statewide races for secretary of state, attorney general and other executive offices; all 70 seats in the state House, including competitive districts where Republicans are trying to reclaim ground in Albuquerque; and county-level races, including a contest to win the Sheriff’s Office in Bernalillo County.
A coalition of 21 groups – including the Albuquerque branch of the NAACP, ProgressNow New Mexico and the New Mexico Asian Family Center – has launched a push to register young adults and inspire them to participate in this year’s election.
Harold Bailey, president of the Albuquerque NAACP, said the aim of the campaign is to encourage informed participation in the election, rather than telling new voters specifically whom they should support.
“A lot of people died, gave up their life and got hurt in the struggle for civil rights and voting rights,” Bailey said Monday. “We need to respect their efforts.”
State Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce said Monday the GOP is working in all 33 counties to boost turnout, with volunteers knocking on doors and operating phone banks.
He listed the rising price of gasoline and food, New Mexico’s high violent-crime rate and poor academic outcomes, and border security as issues motivating conservatives and other voters.
“New Mexicans are insistent that they see real changes in all these issues,” Pearce said in a written statement. “Nationally, and in NM, voters are showing a higher trust in Republicans to fix these problems.”
Daniel Garcia, communications director for the Democratic Party of New Mexico, said the party has a “statewide grassroots campaign” with volunteers knocking on doors, and holding meet-and-greets with candidates. They often hear at the door from voters who say the GOP has moved too far to the right, he said.
“Based on the enthusiasm we see from our base, and the understanding that the future of reproductive rights, marriage equality and our democracy depend on the outcome of the election, we expect a strong Democratic turnout for a midterm election,” Garcia said.
Tuesday marks the last day for online or mail-in voter registration. But voters can still sign up in person using the same-day registration system.
Absentee ballots are set to go in the mail to voters who have applied for them. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Nov. 3.
Expanded early voting sites will open Oct. 22 and Election Day polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 8.